Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas

Desmin: molecular interactions and putative functions of the muscle intermediate filament protein.

PMID 15558188


Desmin is the intermediate filament (IF) protein occurring exclusively in muscle and endothelial cells. There are other IF proteins in muscle such as nestin, peripherin, and vimentin, besides the ubiquitous lamins, but they are not unique to muscle. Desmin was purified in 1977, the desmin gene was characterized in 1989, and knock-out animals were generated in 1996. Several isoforms have been described. Desmin IFs are present throughout smooth, cardiac and skeletal muscle cells, but can be more concentrated in some particular structures, such as dense bodies, around the nuclei, around the Z-line or in costameres. Desmin is up-regulated in muscle-derived cellular adaptations, including conductive fibers in the heart, electric organs, some myopathies, and experimental treatments with drugs that induce muscle degeneration, like phorbol esters. Many molecules have been reported to associate with desmin, such as other IF proteins (including members of the membrane dystroglycan complex), nebulin, the actin and tubulin binding protein plectin, the molecular motor dynein, the gene regulatory protein MyoD, DNA, the chaperone alphaB-crystallin, and proteases such as calpain and caspase. Desmin has an important medical role, since it is used as a marker of tumors' origin. More recently, several myopathies have been described, with accumulation of desmin deposits. Yet, after almost 30 years since its identification, the function of desmin is still unclear. Suggested functions include myofibrillogenesis, mechanical support for the muscle, mitochondrial localization, gene expression regulation, and intracellular signaling. This review focuses on the biochemical interactions of desmin, with a discussion of its putative functions.

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Anti-Desmin antibody produced in rabbit, whole antiserum